PATH Riders’ Council Tackles Key Issues, but Concerns about Transparency Linger

Image: panynj.gov

Image: panynj.gov

Next week will mark the third meeting of the recently-formed PATH Riders’ Council, which gathered for a mostly introductory meeting in July, followed by a September meeting where the group began getting down to business. The meeting minutes list the following focus areas, which MTR called attention to in a post published prior to the September meeting:

  • Technology (displays, info, communication with riders)
  • Service (frequency, capacity, expansion)
  • Communications (communication with riders, feedback loop to riders)

The public minutes also reveal an interesting mandate from PATH Director/General Manager Stephen Kingsberry to the Council, who references the MTR post:

Reminded PRC members that they should not be responding to members of the Press directly as representative of PATH and/or divulging sensitive information discussed during closed session meetings; he referenced the article by Vincent Pellecchia, “A Full Plate for the PATH Riders’ Council

To be clear, the “article” referenced was not prepared nor written with input from anyone on the Council, but rather guided and informed via the public meeting minutes from the July meeting and published media coverage of the meeting.

That aside, this mandate warrants serious concern about transparency. The Council’s Governing Documents incorporate freedom to speak to “the press” or anyone about the meetings. The Council’s Standards of Conduct clearly state:

No Member of the Riders’ Council shall speak on behalf of PATH, nor shall any Member represent to the general public, including the media, that his or her personal views on any issue are the position of PATH, without first having been authorized to do so by the PATH Director/General Manager.

That is to say, only members of the PATH Riders’ Council acting as a representative of PATH or Port Authority need prior authorization from the PATH Director/General Manager when speaking publicly. If a Council member is expressing his or her own views as an individual or a member of the Council, he or she is free to do so.

The purpose of the PATH Riders’ Council is to garner feedback from riders and improve customer service, and to do so effectively, the Council members must be able to communicate with the public. Such an arrangement is not unheard of: MTA board members often express personal opinions to the media when representing themselves — not speaking on behalf of the MTA as a whole. PATH leadership should encourage open dialogue of non-confidential information to ensure the council’s work is not a waste of time.

The PATH Riders’ Council will hold its third meeting on Wednesday, November 19. Let’s hope the message of transparency and accountability that is driving reform legislation forward at the Port Authority trickles down to PATH’s leadership.

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